This article originally appeared in the summer 2014 Harker Quarterly.
Many baseball and softball teams would be blessed to have a trio of aces. Tina Bean and Aaron Bean ’85 have given Harker that many from one family. Their three children – Sarah, Nicolas and Annalyn – are all Harker students, and all pitchers. The eldest is Sarah, a junior. She is also the newest to pitching – or at least to pitching again. When Harker’s softball coaches learned before the start of the season that their expected pitcher would not be able to play, they asked Sarah to step up. “It was completely unexpected that we weren’t going to have a pitcher,” Sarah said. Luckily for the team, however, the coaches knew that Sarah had pitched a bit when she was younger.
A few months before the season began, Sarah started working with the coaches, pitching semiweekly. At practices, the team would simulate pitching in a live game to get her up to speed. “The coaches had faith in me. It has been a huge responsibility, but one that I have been willing to take on because of my love of the team and of the sport,” she said. Last year, the team had the best pitcher in the league, with the most strikeouts. Replacing her would be daunting. “This year, it was such a void that needed to be filled,” Sarah said.
Sarah, her younger brother, Nicolas, grade 9, and their younger sister, Annalyn, grade 3, have grown up with the sport. “We’ve always been a big softball and baseball family,” said Sarah. “As long as I can remember, we’ve always watched the Giants on TV, so as soon as I could start playing softball, I wanted to.” They have also grown up with tremendous encouragement from their parents. “With Dad coaching, and Mom coming to almost every game, it’s a great support base that we have,” said Nicolas. “It feels really good to have everybody out there.”
Nicolas has taken the Harker baseball team by storm. In his first year of high school, playing on the varsity team against the best players – much older players – on other teams, he had the highest batting average on the Eagles, hitting a preposterous .448, while also playing in all 25 of the team’s games and recording by far the most at-bats and plate appearances. His 39 hits and 21 runs scored led the team, as did his .713 slugging percentage.
While Nicolas is the middle child, Sarah says that when it comes to athletics, he’s a model for her. “I look up to him in sports so much,” she said. Nicolas “totally gives himself to the sport.” And, “he’s the best hitter I know.”
On the mound, Nicolas’ 29 innings pitched were fourth-most on the team, and his 31 strikeouts were second-most. That’s meant a lot to the ballclub, but nothing compared to what Sarah’s performance meant to saving the softball squad this year. She pitched 85 of the team’s 92 innings, starting 14 games. With some pitchers from the eighth grade team heading to the upper school next year, Sarah is ready to return to her favorite position: third base.
Sarah and Nicolas grew up not only rooting on for the Giants together, but also playing and working to improve together. “We have always tried to practice together and make each other better,” she said, adding that Nicolas “always complains that we use a softball when we play catch!”
The Beans also have a new pitcher on the way; Annalyn promises to be an asset for Harker one day in her own right. “She is a natural athlete,” said Sarah. “She is crazy athletic.” Sarah stopped by one of Annalyn’s pitching lessons and, shocked by the level of talent she saw, asked Annalyn to promise that she would work to one day play in college. “Even at this young age, she’s showing so much potential – bounds above where I was at that age,” says Sarah. Nicolas sees something else in Annalyn: her spirit. “Annalyn is very hardworking and just enjoys the game,” says Nicolas. “Overall, she just likes
having fun out there with her friends, and that’s one of the most important parts of a sport.”
So, will Annalyn play for Harker one day?
“Yeah, for sure,” said Sarah.
Sarah is a more than effective advocate for Harker’s softball team. Though Sarah has played softball all of her life, she talks about falling in love with the sport all over again because of the team at Harker. “We are the strangest group of people ever,” she said, “but we just work for some reason.”
The closeness that she has within her own family translates to her team as well. “It’s a family thing,” she volunteered, “in that everyone on the team is like family. You get so close with the people you’re working with every day. I think that makes you appreciate them more.” For someone who knows what it is like to play the sport with the people she loves, it is a powerful sentiment and a testament to the atmosphere that the Harker coaching staff – led by Raul Rios with assistants Ray Fowler, Dan Hudkins and Rikki Martinez – has created.
“My love for softball comes from my love for the people I am playing with,” said Sarah. Harker’s softball team has given Sarah a new family, and like her actual family, it’s full of hurlers and sluggers, having a great time together. “Having fun – that’s what it’s all about for all of us,” says Nicolas. “The game is fun, and that’s why we want to go back out there.” With Sarah and Nicolas returning to their teams next year, and Annalyn surely on the way, the future looks bright for Harker’s baseball and softball teams, and for the Bean family pitchers.